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Wednesday, December 17,2008

The Sun also rises

Grand Ledge theater goes nova

by Cale Sauter
Cale Sauter/City Pulse
When Chuck Pantera purchased Grand Ledge’s historic Sun Theater in 1989, he couldn’t have imagined the extravaganzas he’d be hosting nearly 20 years later. With a schedule that includes popular first-run movies, rock concerts, video game tournaments, comedy nights and interactive multimedia parties, the Sun is making a bid to anchor an entertainment renaissance in Grand Ledge.
On a cloudy Sunday, Dec. 14, the Sun hosted its second music event — an all-ages, matinee-style concert running from noon to 5.

Local acts Bloodshot Victory, The Hat Madder, Jason Alarm and Monsters on Maple Street took the stage by turns, with solo artists performing between bands.

The crowd was modest — the Sun is still getting the word out about its diverse calendar — but the production was first rate. It was a full afternoon of entertainment, popcorn and giveaways in a charming atmosphere. Even the acoustics got high marks.

“It sounds pretty good in here,” Pat Hogan, bassist of Jason Alarm, said. “Hopefully, people will catch on to this place and we can watch or play with some really good bands here.”

The Sun’s first music event took place eight years ago when Luke Elder, an aspiring promoter from Grand Ledge, approached Pantera about using the theater space for bands. “That first show went great,” Elder recalled. “From there, we came up with a lot of ideas involving shows, all-ages events, Thursday night comedy nights and stuff like that.”

Elder sees great potential in the Sun and expects to promote and book two or three events here per month.

“Lansing is somewhat behind Detroit and Ann Arbor in venues to see good music,” he said.
The slumping economy, Elder said, may work in the Sun’s favor, because people are staying closer to home.

“We hope to turn this into an option for people who don’t necessarily want to travel to the State Theater (now the Fillmore) in Detroit to see a show in this sort of environment,” he said.
In addition to Elder’s impresario work, Charlie Pantera (son of Chuck) is taking advantage of the theater’s new digital projector to host video game tournaments.

“We can project just about anything up onto the screen,” he younger Pantera said. Private parties use the system to show films.

And then there are the perennial pop-culture favorites. When a local resident suggested a showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” about 250 people showed up to throw toast at the screen.

On Feb. 20, the Sun will host the Surrogate Band, a popular Pink Floyd tribute band. The band will play “Dark Side of the Moon,” synchronized to a screening of “The Wizard of Oz.” (According to stoner lore, the audiovisual synergy between “Moon” and “Oz” is a mind-blower.)

Charlie Pantera said moviegoers can expect the quality of films shown at the Sun to improve as well. “We’ve recently reacquired licenses with all of the popular studios,” he said. The crew at the Sun have a lot of ideas for further improvement and expansion, beginning with a bigger, more permanent stage.

“We’re looking into various grants and sponsorships right now,” Pantera said.

“This place really has the potential to be at the center of revival to Grand Ledge’s art and cultural scene,” Elder said.

In the meantime, those with event ideas or an interest in renting the Sun Theater, 316 S. Bridge St. in Grand Ledge, or who just want to check out the schedule of events can find it online at grandledgesun.com or call (517) 627-2346. Bands interested in booking a performance should contact Elder at lucassinclair@hotmail.com.

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